Monday, April 7

Hochhuth, He Makes Me Angry

Helga’s situation and Hochhuth’s description of her will not do. If I could find Rolf Hochhuth right now, I would throw a really big rock at his head. I hope he doesn’t have any daughters. Sure, Helga is young and impressionable, but the fact that the Doctor, (Why won’t Hochhuth just say his last name? We all know who he is.), coerces her into bed is not her fault. It is not because she is “totally malleable, like most young girls,” but because she has spent her formative years being indoctrinated with Nazi b.s. in the League of German Girls and doesn’t know any better (229). She may “come to his bed during the lunch hour” by walking there on her own, but as is the case with any young woman being sexually manipulated by an older man, it’s not a case of “lov[ing] this fear more than her soul’s peace” (229, 234); it’s that he knows how to manipulate her, as is seen before they part on page 239. What a bunch of crap! I find it beyond ironic that Hochhuth describes Helga sardonically as an inhuman, vacant-minded sexual robot—she seems more like a victim to me, naive—given that The Deputy deals with how one group of people managed to dehumanize and subjugate another! I understand the point he’s trying to make about ordinary people working at Auschwitz like it’s a normal job and then later claiming to “not know” that people were being killed there. I think he could have conveyed his point without this venomous indictment of women (it reminds me of the passage in Zorba the Greek where Zorba complains that “women can’t help but get children from every man they’re with” or something similar). It’s a difficult enough subject to deal with, a reader doesn’t need to be slapped in the face with this as well. I find Hochhuth to be very heavy-handed and arrogant and I don’t care what the point is he’s trying to make because I resent his method. I also hate the way he inserts his poisonous little opinions about the characters into the text. He obviously never learned how to “show” rather than “tell” when writing.
There’s a movie that came out recently called Funny Games, also by a German, where the whole point of the movie is to disgust the audience enough that they walk out of the theater. In the movie, a wealthy American family is tortured by two young men who invade their home. The director says that anyone who stays until the end credits of the film has something wrong with them. He also says that he made this movie for Americans, to show them that are too interested in violence. Something about this reminds me of The Deputy...
I’m not surprised that in the end Riccardo gets killed and Gerstein gets arrested (obviously because it says so at the beginning of the play). I had hope for poor Jacobson and Carlotta, but they are characters created by Hochhuth to serve as martyrs for his heavy-handed cause, so of course they are doomed. I find it quite merciful at the end that Hochhuth lets the characters and the audience/reader get off rather easy. I was afraid we were going to have to witness the characters being tortured or gassed. This is an unusual work because it leaves you in the end with no hope whatsoever, other than the voiceover stating that the Russians liberated the Auschwitz prisoners in January 1945, which actually makes you feel worse because all you can think is “Why not sooner?” This is the sort of work that gets its point across by pummeling the audience into feeling worse and worse. Like I said before, I understand the point, but I have to question the method and, really, the purpose as well.

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